ruling party leader-US

NEW YORK, Nov. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's ruling party leader on Friday expressed hope for stronger economic ties with the United States as the countries negotiate amendments to their bilateral trade deal.

Speaking with South Korean and U.S. businessmen in New York, Choo Mi-ae of the Democratic Party pledged to work harder to improve the business and investment environment for foreign companies in South Korea.

"The South Korea-U.S. alliance, grounded in security, trade and values, must now grow stronger and evolve," she said. "In addition to the existing economic cooperation, we must continue to look for joint projects in energy, space and the defense industry."

Boasting that the South Korean economy has maintained its highest-ever credit rating despite numerous risk factors, Choo called for a balance of the two countries' interests in any future amendments to their free trade agreement.

"If the U.S. government demands we open up our agricultural sector further when there are no benefits to us, (the revised agreement) will face considerable difficulties in the South Korean parliament's ratification process," she said. "Negotiations will have to focus on addressing changes in the two countries' industrial structures over the years, rather than artificially fixing the trade balance."

South Korea and the U.S. are in the process of completing domestic procedures to begin formal negotiations for a revision to the five-year-old deal known as KORUS. U.S. President Donald Trump insists the agreement has contributed to the widening U.S. trade deficit with South Korea, even though the U.S. enjoys a surplus in services trade.

"The South Korea-U.S. FTA is not simply an economic deal, but a special agreement that embodies the friendship and understanding of two allies," Choo said. "The Republic of Korea hopes our economic cooperation will grow stronger and expand going forward."